Looking lovely in the garden now is the Purple Velvet Bean vine, Mucuna cyclocarpa. This lowland native to Southeastern China makes a superb deciduous vine that flowers non-stop from mid-summer until fall. To us, the bizarre fleshy flower clusters look like those characters from the old Fruit of the Loom commercials. Interestingly, we must not have the pollinators it needs in our region, since it never sets any seed unless hand pollinated. One of the other species, Mucuna pruriens, has been widely studied, and found to have countless medicinal properties, but it doesn’t seem that M. cyclocarpa has been studied so far. All plants in the US seem to trace back to the former Yucca Do Nursery, who obtained seed from a visiting Chinese researcher.
Looking great in mid August is Hedychium spicatum. This is a ginger lily species we saw throughout our late 1990s travels in Yunnan, China. Pictured below are our 3 year old seed-grown specimen, which has already become a massive 5′ tall x 10′ wide. The flower is much smaller than some of the more showy species of hedychium, but the overall garden impact is quite grand. Hardiness is Zone 7b-10 (guessing).
Recently finished flowering in the garden is the fascinating Asian native orchid, Cremastra appendiculata. This widespread woodland species has a huge native range from the Assam region of India through China, to the Sakhalin Islands. In the garden, Cremastra is reasonably easy to grow, and quite similar although distantly related to two US native terrestrial orchids, Tipularia discolor (cranefly orchid), and Aplectrum hymale (Putty-root orchid). We’ve offered these several times (2010-2013) in the past, but sadly few people purchased them. Hardiness is Zone 6a-9b.
For several years, we’ve been fascinated with the genus, Hemiboea, a collection of 23 species of African Violet relatives, all native to China. We currently grow five of those, and two others that are still to be identified. On a 2020 trip to England, we picked up Hemiboea strigosa, which has been flowering beautifully here at JLBG, starting in early fall. The Latin word “strigosa” means stringy, which certainly describe the mat of stolons which lie right at the soil surface. So far, our plants have been through two winters, where they fared very well. If the good performance continues, we will start propagation soon.
One of our favorite love lilies in our 2003 introduction, Amorphophallus konjac ‘Pinto’. This amazing dwarf never has foliage that exceeds 16″ in height. Unfortunately, the ridiculously slow growth rate has kept us from offering it again since, but perhaps one day. Here is our parent plant in the garden this week. Even if you don’t have a home garden, this form is superb in a container. We had a large crop of dwarfs from seed two years ago, and are looking for more unique new compact selections.
Mukdenia is an odd monotypic genus in the widespread Saxifrage family, along with cousins heuchera, tiarella, and the namesake saxifraga. The odd genus name honors the former city of Mukden in Manchuria, which is now known as Shenyang. Mukden was the site of the largest modern day battle, prior to WWI. In case you missed it, the final score was Japan 1, Russia 0.
Several on-line sites, including that purveyor of accuracy, Wikipedia, proclaims there to be two species of Mukdenia, which is sadly incorrect. Although I’m sure Mukdenia rossii would like a sibling, one simply does not exist. I think of Mukdenia like Smucker’s…with a name like that, it has to be good…and it is.
Mukdenia naturally resides in China and Korea, where it can be found in some rather inhospitable places. I had to laugh when I read countless on-line articles that repeat the myth that mukdenia needs water during summer drought. It certainly doesn’t mind summer water, and will probably look better as a garden specimen with some irrigation. My first encounter with mukdenia in the wild was in fall 1997 on South Korea’s Mt. Sorak, where it thrived, growing in the rock cracks of a nearly vertical cliff (below)
When we built our concrete crevice garden, mukdenia was one of the first plants I wanted to plant to see if it would mimic what I had seen in the wild. Below is our 2017 planting of Mukdenia rossii ‘Karasuba’ in late March/early April 2022, as it emerges in flower. The foliage continues to expand around the flowers. Our plants get 3-4 hours of sun each morning, then shade the remainder of the day. Winter hardiness is Zone 4a-7b.
Unless you’re a serious plant nerd, you’ve probably never heard of the plant genus, Urophysa. This small genus of only two species in the clematis family (Ranunculaceae) is only found growing in Karst cliff crevices in a few limited provinces of South Central China. In other words, they are quite rare. Urophysa henryi was originally named Isopyrum henryi, when it was thought to be a brother of our native Isopyrum biternatum. Urophysa is now considered most closely related to the famed half-columbine, Semiaquilegia adoxoides.
While the Chinese people mostly use Urophysa henryi as a medicinal treatment for bruises, etc., we prefer it as a winter-flowering gem in the rock garden. Here are our plants, which began flowering in our rock garden, just as we turned the page on the new year, 2022.
Epimedium ‘Pink Champagne’ is dazzling today in the garden, both for the great foliage and floral show.
Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow’…WOW. Variegated foliage and very cool flowers. The key to growing this well is good drainage and immediately after flower, cut it back to near the ground.
Clematis ochroleuca is an amazing dwarf bush clematis native to North Carolina and Virginia, yet winter hardy in Minnesota. This is one of our favorite late winter plants.
The first peony of the season is the Chinese tree peony, Paeonia ostii. Untouched by late frosts, this gem is just wrapping up its floral show. This is one peony that’s as thrilled with summer heat and humidity as it is with polar vortexes. Yes, we are currently sold out…sorry.
What an incredible week for epimediums here at Juniper Level. The first photo is our introduction, Epimedium ‘Songbirds‘…an insanely heavily flowered yellow selection.
Epimedium wushanense ‘Starlite‘ is our selection of the amazing Chinese species, which boasts large terminal inflorescences on a plant that approaches 2’ tall.
Epimedium zhushanense is another incredible Chinese species with large bicolor, spider-like flowers. We think these are truly stunning in the woodland garden.
At the end of the epimedium alphabet, but no less wonderful is the little-known, but stunning Chinese Epimedium zhushanense….what a superb garden presence!
Greetings from Plant Delights! We hope everyone has made it through another summer garden season in good shape. We’re wrapping up the open houses for 2012 with our final three days, Friday through Sunday this weekend. If you’re in the area, we sure hope you’ll join us. It’s been great to meet so many of our nearly 7,000 Facebook fans and friends in person at open house…thanks so much for taking time to follow our plant postings.
As we inch closer to the autumnal equinox, temperatures have begun to fall, which marks a resurgence of many plants that hibernated during the dog days of summer. Dahlias are like many plants that live for fall, and many of us cut our dahlias to the ground in late August so the fall flush will be look fresh and new. Perennial salvias such as the woody-stemmed Salvia greggiis put on their best floral show of the year in autumn when they flower nonstop for several months. Other salvia species like Salvia leucantha, and my personal favorite, the Salvia leucantha hybrid Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’, only flower in fall. Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ is a Barry Bonds-sized steroidal monster, producing a 7′ tall x 8′ wide specimen in only 12 months.
What an amazing year this has been for butterflies in the garden…certainly, the best that I remember in over a decade. While butterflies were in abundance, Japanese beetles were nowhere to be found this year…not that we have much trouble with them anyway since we try to keep stressed plants out of our garden. Remember that most garden insects have cyclical population spikes, so don’t get too excited when a pest leaves or a new pest arrives.
One insect that made an appearance in our area starting a couple of years ago was the Genista caterpillar (Uresiphita reversalis). Baptisias have long been considered insect resistant since their leaves contain chemicals that repel most insects. Unfortunately, Genista caterpillars are immune to these leaf toxins. To make matters worse, the caterpillars have chemicals in their bodies that make them immune to most caterpillar predators…ain’t that just grand. While the Genista caterpillar is native to southern and central US, they have not been seen this far east until the last few years.
The unattractive nocturnal moths lay their eggs in spring, which subsequently hatch and the Genista caterpillar larvae begin feeding on the tender new baptisia plant growth. The larvae work fast and can completely strip the foliage of a mature baptisia in a few days…fortunately, this shouldn’t cause permanent damage to the plant. The larvae have 5 stages before they pupate for overwintering. Since the moths are quite prolific, they can actually lay several generations of eggs each year, so you’ll need to monitor your baptisias all summer. When the caterpillars are young they can be easily killed with organic BT (Bacillus thuringensis) products. Spinosad, a biological insecticide composed of Saccharopolyspora spinosa bacteria from crushed sugar cane, has also shown good effectiveness.
While I never expected to commit to writing another regular column other than our monthly e-newsletter, I recently had my arm twisted thanks to one of those once in a lifetime opportunities…the recent launch of Walter Magazine. The name may sound strange for those of you outside North Carolina, but our city of Raleigh, was named after Sir Walter Raleigh, a 16th century English flamboyant dressing explorer/spy. While writing a plant feature column for my hometown magazine was a great oppurtunity, this is also my first time to pair with former New York Times freelance botanical illustrator, the amazing Ippy Patterson.
I can’t believe I’m actually promoting a shrub pruning demonstration, but this isn’t just any shrub pruning. One of my favorite people, topiary artist Pearl Fryar, is coming to Raleigh for an artistic demonstration at NCSU’s new Gregg Art Gallery at 1903 Hillsborough Street. The date is Sunday October 28, from noon until 4pm. This free event is a gathering of artists and musicians…refreshments will be provided. If you’ve seen the movie, “A Man Named Pearl”.
and want to meet this amazing man in person, don’t miss the event.
In the latest news from the nursery world, the 65-year-old Klupengers of Oregon is closing their doors. Klupengers is a 320 acre wholesaler specializing in japanese maples, rhododendrons and azaleas. Klupengers Nursery had sold out once before, but wound up buying the nursery back in 2010 hoping to outlast the downturn, which didn’t work out so well. Everything including land is currently being liquidated, unless someone wants to buy the entire operation.
It was also time for more consolidation in the green industry this month as the world famous, 3rd generation Ecke Ranch was purchased by Agribio International. For those of you not in the horticulture industry, the majority of the poinsettias you buy at Christmas were introduced by the 1000-employee Ecke Ranch of California. Ecke also has a large geranium breeding program. It appears for now the company will remain intact other than a change in ownership.
Agribio Holding B.V. is a Dutch investment firm, specializing in purchasing plant breeding businesses. It recently acquired Barberet and Blanc, a carnation breeder in Spain; Bartels Stek, an aster, solidago, and phlox breeder in Holland; Fides, a bedding and potted plant breeder in Holland; Oro Farms, a production facility in Guatemala; Japan Agribio, a breeder of bedding and potted plants in Japan; and Lex+, a rose breeder in Holland. The acquisition of Ecke makes Agribio one of the largest producers of cutting-produced ornamentals in the world.
It’s with sadness that I report Ohio hosta breeder and nurseryman Bob Kuk, of Kuk’s Forest Nursery passed away on August 14 after a short illness. During his lifetime, Bob developed and introduced over 50 hostas including Hosta ‘Bizarre’, ‘Emerald Necklace’, ‘Golden Empress’, ‘Queen Josephine’, and ‘Unforgettable’. In 2011, Bob was awarded the Distinguished Hybridizer Award by the American Hosta Society for his body of work. Our thoughts go out to both Bob’s hosta family and friends. < href=”http://www.americanhostasociety.org/2011FisherSpeech.html”>Learn more about Bob.
I recently got an email from Dr. Charlie Keith, whose Chapel Hill, NC Arboretum I’ve written about several times. Charlie is turning 80 soon, and has come to the realization that he hasn’t been able to raise adequate funds to preserve the arboretum as he had hoped. Consequently, he’s looking to sell the arboretum property which houses one of the largest woody plant collections in the country. Charlie will be hosting an open house on October 21, from 1-5pm, with plantsmen Mark Weathington of the JC Raulston Arboretum and author Tom Krenitsky as tour guides. The arboretum is located at 2131 Marion’s Ford, Chapel Hill (for more information). If you know of anyone interested in purchasing the 80 acre property, please get in touch with Charlie, as his collection is simply too important to lose.
From the medical world, recent research from The University of Sichuan, published in “Current Chemical Biology” (Volume 3, 2009), has shown the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, has great potential as an anti-fungal, anti-viral (including HIV), and anti-tumor agent for several cancers, including breast cancer. The report also studied the significant anti-tumor lignin activities of other related monocots including Aspidistra elatior (cast iron plant), Polygonatum odoratum and P. cyrtonema (Solomon’s seal), Narcissus pseudonarcissus (daffodil), Ophiopogon japonicus (mondo grass), Typhonium divaricatum (dwarf voodoo lily), and Viscum sp. (mistletoe).
Other common ornamental plants with very specific anti-HIV activity include Lycoris radiata (surprise lilies), Polygonatum multiflorum and P. cyrtonema (Solomon’s seal), Hippeastrum hybrids (amaryllis), Cymbidium hybrids (orchids), and Narcissus pseudonarcissus (daffodil). This is just another reason that the federal government should be doing much more to make plant exploration and importation easier and reverse the current trend toward plant exclusion and making plant importation exceedingly difficult.
Enjoy, and until the next newsletter, we’ll keep in touch on Facebook!
Spring in our part of North Carolina has been truly amazing this year. It helped that spring started in January and has continued into late May. Finally, I know what it feels like to live in the Pacific Northwest. We’ve actually had relatively good rains so far, so growth in the garden is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent years. Hopefully the impending rains from the remnants of tropical storm Beryl will soak the lower southeast coast, where drought conditions have been quite bad.
I’m sitting on the deck today, looking at our amazing clump of the wonderful gold-leaf Hydrangea ‘Lemon Daddy’ which is just about to burst into full flower. I’m always looking for gold-leaf plants to help brighten the dark spots in the garden. I’ve been posting pictures of the different stages of its growth on our Facebook page, which we hope you have enjoyed. http://www.plantdelights.com/Hydrangea/products/211/
It’s been century plant central here this spring, with nine agave flower spikes ready to burst into flower (Agave protoamericana – 3, Agave striata, Agave striata v. falcata, Agave palmeri, Agave victoriae-reginae, Agave ‘Ansom’ (nickelsii x scabra), and Agave ‘Stormy Seize’ (scabra x ferox). As promised, I’ll let you know via Facebook when peak agave bloom arrives and we’ll arrange a time when visitors can drop by and see them in full bloom. We’ve already starting making crosses since one of our customers was kind enough to share pollen from his flowering Agave ovatifolia, which we’ve already applied to our Agave striata as well as to Manfreda undulata…that should result in something truly weird.
Hardy gladiolus flowering season has also just begun and it’s hard to keep the flowers cut fast enough in our stock blocks. The first glads to start this year were the lovely Gladiolus ‘Purple Prince’, followed by Gladiolus ‘Robeson Red’, and now Gladiolus dalenii ‘Boone’. We’ve been playing around with some gladiolus breeding the last few years and our first crop of seedlings will be flowering next week…always exciting to see what results you get. We’ll post photos of some of our best seedlings on Facebook, so let us know what you think. http://www.plantdelights.com/Gladiolus/products/189/
Speaking of plants and gardens, we’re looking to fill an assistant garden curator position, so if you know anyone with a good work ethic, an eye for detail, an academic plant background and a passion for plants, tell ‘em to email our business manager, Heather Brameyer at email@example.com. We’re also searching for a seasonal nursery worker to help with watering, so let us hear from you.
Kudos are in order for our friend, Dr. Allan Armitage, who was recently awarded the prestigious Liberty Hyde Bailey Award from the American Horticulture Society. The Bailey Award is the society’s top award, given annually to an individual who has made significant lifetime achievements in at least three of these horticultural fields; teaching, research, communications, plant exploration, administration, art, business, and leadership. Congratulations my friend…well deserved!
Speaking of awards on a much lesser scale, I got a note from the President of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society last week, letting me know that I was selected to receive their Jackson Dawson Medal for plant exploration and breeding. In order to actually receive the award, however, I would have to fly to Boston and attend their awards banquet at my expense or the award would be re-gifted to someone else. This is the same Massachusetts Horticultural Society that in 2008 stiffed me for my speaking honorarium and most of my out of pocket expenses because of their financial mismanagement. This recent offer sure seems to me like a group looking to fill their dinner with horticultural celebrities in order to attract donors as opposed to truly recognizing individuals for their accomplishments. I obviously declined their kind offer. Having known many wonderful folks who formerly worked at Mass Hort, I find it sad that they still haven’t experienced a significant period of reflective enlightenment.
Speaking of reflective enlightenment…six years after closing the beloved Heronswood Nursery in Kingston, Washington, George Ball has decided auction off the property which housed the original nursery, and the home and garden of founders Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones. Ball paid $5.5 million for the original property plus an adjacent land parcel, which brings the land total to 15 acres. The asking price has been as high as $11 million, but no one bit, so now the land, three houses, an office, and the entire gardens will go on the auction block with silent bids starting at $749,000. Bids are due by 2 p.m. June 15 to Sheldon Good & Co., a auction division of New York’s Racebrook investment firm. The Heronswood name and business are also for sale separately. Racebrook will hold on-site inspections for prospective buyers by appointment on May 18, May 26, June 1 and June 9. For more information, visit http://www.HeronswoodAuction.com or call 800-962-0931.
I was very sad to receive an email last week from the producers of The Martha Stewart Show, telling me the show has been cancelled by the Hallmark Channel. I’d like to openly thank Martha and all the great production staff who were so great to work with during my several appearances. I wish everyone the best of luck in their new ventures including Martha’s new cooking show on PBS.
Other news that caught most of us in the botanical garden world off guard was the sudden departure of Mt. Cuba Center director Rick Lewandowski after a 13-year tenure at the helm. The Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware is in the process of a public transformation in the model of other nearby Dupont family estates such as Longwood Gardens. Under Rick’s tenure, the gardens had continued to develop and his botanical treks through the Piedmont region brought an extensive number of wonderful new collections to the garden. Mt. Cuba is currently searching for a new director and Rick is searching for his next great horticultural adventure. Best of luck to both.
Speaking of artsy things, one of our customers, David Fishman, is an avid photographer, and is now trying to commercialize some of his artistic plant images. I think you’ll find his work quite fascinating. http://www.fishmanbotanicalportraits.com/index.php
In the “I’m from the government and I’m here to sniff you” file this month comes more interesting news. Yes, you read it right…with the increasing costs of hiring government workers and subsequently paying them retirement, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is now using dogs to find Emerald Ash Borers and trees infected with these damaging insects. While the first crop of bug-busting canines are still in training, they are expected to be on the job full-time by July. Their assigned tasks will include sniffing mulch piles, landfills, and commercial vehicles.
In case you missed it, the US Department of Agriculture is already using dogs to find the equally destructive Asian longhorn beetles. The USDA, however, is also looking for volunteer beetle spotters, so here’s a great chance to keep your kids busy and out of your hair. You can find more here…just don’t let the live beetle freak you out. http://www.beetlebusters.info. You can find out more about the partner organization, Working Dogs for Conservation at http://www.workingdogsforconservation.org/
In another bit of very interesting scientific research, it was recently discovered that rubber mulches are not really as good as the marketers of these products would have had us believe. Duh! To help rid the world of scrap tires, ground tire rubber mulch has recently been touted for uses from playgrounds to athletic fields to putting greens. Now that rubber mulches have been used for several years, it has become clear that many of the initial claims of its superiority are being debunked. In terms of effectiveness as weed control, rubber mulch rated near the bottom of the list of mulches, but in terms of flammability, rubber mulch tops the list…not really a good thing. As for permanency, rubber mulch also fails. According to the research, rubber eating bacteria, which will actually consume rubber mulch, are initially kept at bay by toxins used in tire production (2-mercaptobenzothiazol for rubber vulcanization and polyaromatic hydrocarbons for tire softening). White and brown-rot fungus effectively neutralize the toxins, which then allows the bacteria to decompose the rubber. Ok, so this sounds good…right? Wrong! This decomposition means that all of the toxins in the tires, including very high levels of heavy metals like zinc are leached into the soil. I have warned people for years about high zinc levels which often occur when water runoff from roads drains into your landscape. Many plants, especially aquatic plants, are especially susceptible to zinc. The bottom line is simple…stick with organic, non-toxic mulches.
Finally, from the “you can’t make this stuff up” file comes the May 11 incident of a medical marijuana grower who was shopping at a Clarkston, Washington Walmart. The grower was purchasing mulch for his crop and reached to move a twig on the mulch pile, only to discover too late that the twig was actually a thoroughly pissed-off rattlesnake…oops! The snake was subsequently beaten to death for being under the influence and the marijuana grower was treated with six bags of snake anti-venom for shopping in such an alert and coherent state. Want to bet there was some serious self-medicating after the victim returned home? WalMart has apologized, but did note that the snake was “Made in America”.
Enjoy, and until the next newsletter, we’ll keep in touch on Facebook!
Howdy folks and welcome to spring! Alright, I know that’s rubbing it in to those of you in the northern climatic zones, but here at Juniper Level, spring is in full swing. Even for those of you still suffering through snow and other winter weather, it won’t be long before you will join us in the most exciting of garden seasons.
There is so much happening in the gardens here at Juniper Level, it’s hard to know where to start. Because I spend so much time in the garden photographing, I often notice the plants the minute they come into flower. Yesterday, for example, I enjoyed the flowers of the woodland peony, Paeonia japonica, which looked like a giant full moon-like round ball in the morning, then opening just after noon to reveal the stunning yellow stamens and red-based filaments against a white background…a striking combination. I cannot imagine why everyone with a woodland garden doesn’t grow this gem or its woodland counterpart, Paeonia obovata.
Another early spring favorite are the epimediums or fairy wings. It’s hard to imagine the amazing advancements in this genus in just the last decade. I remember working with epimediums in the shade house at the JC Raulston Arboretum back in the 1980s and while I thought they were nice, I wasn’t enamored enough of the cute, small-flowered selections to even include them in our catalog until over a decade later. In 1998, thanks to epimedium guru Darrell Probst, we saw the future of epimediums and finally took the plunge. Here we are thirteen years later with our own epimedium breeding program and seven introductions under our belt. I guess it’s the combination of larger flower size, amazing floral colors, great foliage, and superb vigor that made me finally embrace the genus. Others are getting excited about epimedium also, some for the aforementioned traits, and others for its medicinal qualities as a male enhancement “tool” as in the product, ExtenZe®! If you’re just getting started with epimediums, we highly recommend two of the most vigorous hybrids on the market, Epimedium ‘Domino’ and ‘Pink Champagne’, both Darrell Probst hybrids. We’ve got absolutely incredible plants of these available (full flower) and many more great selections ready to ship.
For the first time in years, we have stock of two of the finest Chinese mayapples, Podophyllum versipelle and Podophyllum pleianthum. In comparison to our native Podophyllum peltatum, both of the Chinese species have much larger foliage and they lack stolons (runners). Additionally, both of these Chinese species remain up until fall, unlike our native, which goes dormant in late spring. The liver-colored flower clusters on the Asian species are simply incredible. These are truly amazing plants that you must see in person to appreciate. Since they don’t spread, I’ll pass along a little propagation trick that we discovered. You can take a spade and slice down and out about 12-18″ away from an established clump, and everywhere you cut a root you will find a new plant a year later.
Another plant I’ve finally figured out how to grow is the Asian Cypripedium japonicum. If you have seen this in person, it’s completely different from all the other ladyslipper orchids with a corrugated, round fan-shaped leaf. I failed on my first few attempts a decade earlier, but now have this happily growing in the garden. In addition, our containerized crop looks fabulous and are currently in full flower. Although we only recommend this for keen gardeners, we hope those who are so inclined will give it a try. This is only one of several hardy cypripediums that we offer. I know I’ve mentioned these in the past, but I was particularly interested to see how they fared after our brutal summer of 2010, since word on the street is that many of the Cypripedium species and hybrids won’t tolerate our summers. Amazingly, our plants in the garden are already up and looking superb. The myth about their lack of heat tolerance is so busted!
For March, we have added several new plants to the online catalog…several in very short supply. We’ve had many folks ask about Epimedium wushanense, so after two years of withholding our stock for division, we can offer this again. We hope you find something interesting on the list.
In gardening news, we were surprised to learn that Dr. Todd Lasseigne will be leaving North Carolina to become the first full-time director of the new Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden in Tulsa. Todd is currently the Director of the Paul Ciener Botanic Garden in Kernersville, NC. Just after the grand opening at the Ciener Garden, Todd will depart NC to start his new job on April 18…and what a job he is facing!
I wanted to see what Todd got himself into, so I dropped by the Tulsa garden last weekend. To say I was shocked would be the understatement of the century. The garden is little more than a bare piece of prairie, in an undeveloped region northwest of Tulsa that could easily be the movie set for a Midwestern version of the movie Deliverance. The garden site is reachable by a new $2 million winding gravel road off the main highway. I know what it’s like when someone donates land, but geez, folks…surely you could have traded for some road frontage. Getting folks to visit gardens in such a remote location is going to require some heavy duty marketing. As one who believes you can build a garden anywhere, we look forward to seeing the progress and we wish Todd the best in his new venture.
On a sad note, plantsman Norman Beal of Raleigh is giving up his amazing garden due to health issues. If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Norman’s garden, it is undoubtedly one of the finest plantsman’s gardens in the triangle region, being featured on numerous tours and garden shows. I truly hope someone with an appreciation of Norman’s great work will be able to purchase this incredible one acre garden. You can find more info at www.2324NewBernAve.info, where it is listed under the MLS # 1773772 or call Norman’s realtor, Gary Clark at 919-744-7334.
We were saddened this month to hear of the loss of one of the great characters of the hosta world, when Mildred Seaver passed away at the ripe old age of 98. Mildred was one of the founders of the New England Hosta Society, and a winner of the American Hosta Society’s top honor, the Alex Summers Award, in 1988. Mildred lived most of her life in Western Massachusetts, but spent her last few years in a Delaware retirement home near her son, Charlie. Mildred was a prolific introducer of hostas with over 65 introductions to her credit, although most were made without the benefit of ever making an intentional cross. Mildred was able to spot a unique seedling as good as anyone who has ever grown hostas. Many of her hostas bore part of her name “Sea”. Some of her most enduring hosta introductions include Hosta ‘Allan P. McConnell’, ‘Sea Fire’, ‘Spinning Wheel’, ‘Spilt Milk’, ‘High Noon’, ‘El Dorado’, ‘Komodo Dragon’, and most recently Hosta ‘Queen of the Seas’.
As a larger than life character, Mildred Seaver stories will abound for decades in the hosta world…no doubt due to her boisterous, pseudo-confrontational, kooky style. At a hosta convention in the late 1990s, Mildred publically offered to swap her hotel room key (with her inside) for a piece of my newest introduction…classic Mildred. My favorite memory of Mildred occurred when I was visiting friends in Western Massachusetts in the early 1990s and I asked them to drop me off at Mildreds home for a visit. Their incredulous response was, “By yourself?” After walking around her garden, Mildred and I headed off to lunch at a nearby restaurant with me behind the wheel of her car…my first driving Miss Daisy moment. While we were waiting for our meals, I posed a question to Mildred that I’d long wanted to ask…”When did you become crazy?” Taken aback only briefly, Mildred quickly regained her composure and shared a story of being in the hospital when she was in her ‘50s and having the doctors tell her that she might not survive. She remembered laying there thinking about her life as a shrinking violet, and worrying that she might die and no one would ever remember meeting Mildred Seaver. She promised herself that if she survived her medical ordeal, she would make certain that everyone remembered meeting Mildred Seaver. All I can say is…”Mission accomplished Mildred…we’ll miss you!” In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mildred’s memory to the American Hosta Society, P. O. Box 7539, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948. To send on-line condolences to the family visit www.mccreryandharra.com
Late February also saw the passing of nurseryman Tom DeBaggio of DeBaggio Herb Farm in Virginia, after a long battle with Alzheimers. To say Tom was a renaissance man, doesn’t do Tom justice. In addition to running a destination herb nursery and being a world renown authority, Tom was a prolific author, writing Basil: An Herb Lover’s Guide with Susan Belsinger (1996), The Encyclopedia of Herbs: A Comprehensive Reference to Herbs of Flavor and Fragrance with Art Tucker (2000), and Growing Herbs from Seed, Cutting and Root with Jim Wilson (2000).
In 1997, at age 56, Tom was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Determined to share his experiences, Tom continued his writing with two books about his disease, Losing My Mind: An Intimate Look at life with Alzheimer’s (2002), and When It Gets Dark: An Enlightened Reflection On Life With Alzheimer’s (2007). Tom’s contributions both to our knowledge of herbs and our understanding of life are immeasurable. Thanks Tom!
There’s been quite a bit of interest over the last few years about phytoremediation…using plants to extract pollutants from the environment. I’m sure we’ve all heard about the experiments using house plants to extract air pollutants, but that research continues around the world.
Researchers at the University of Sydney found that six or more plants in a 1500 square foot house could achieve “noteworthy” contaminant reductions. Researchers found that contaminants are reduced both by the leaf stomata (tiny openings on the leaf undersides), as well as by microorganisms in the potting soil. Researchers at the University of Washington found that plants in a computer lab reduced dust by 20%. In 2009, researchers at the University of Georgia identified five “super ornamentals” which showed a very high rate of air contaminant removal. These include Hedera helix (English Ivy), Asparagus sp. (asparagus fern), Setcreasea pallida (purple heart wandering jew), Hemigraphis exotica (waffle plant), and Hoya sp. (wax plant). As if we needed one, we have another great reason to grow plants!
We’ve still got a few openings in our Creative Garden Photography Workshop to be held during our Spring Open House on May 7, so if you’re interested, don’t delay in getting registered. Responses from last years attendees were exceptional! http://www.plantdelights.com/Classes/products/550/
In the Top 25 this month, Iris ‘Red Velvet Elvis’ remains at the top of the list, with Colocasia ‘Thailand Giant’ close behind. The shock is to find Paris polyphylla still in third! It’s great to see six ferns in the top 25 this month, including Athyrium ‘Ghost’ at #5, Dryopteris x australis at #15, Arachniodes standishii at #16, Dryopteris labordei ‘Golden Mist’ at #17, Dryopteris celsa at #18, and Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’ at #24. We hope your favorite plants rise to the top before years end!
Thanks for taking time to read our newsletter and we hope you enjoy the new catalog and website.